Why Websites Fail
Does your website look gorgeous?
Of course it does. You’ve spent good money on website design, but here’s the question:
What about the words?
No matter how lovely your website looks, visitors make buying decisions based on what they read. Words matter. They make the difference between website success and failure.
In this article, I’m going to draw upon 10 years of copywriting experience to reveal 7 reasons why websites fail.
Fail #1: It’s all about you
Me-centred copy is an easy mistake to make. After all, you spend most days focusing on your products or services, polishing and refining every detail.
You’re an expert, justifiably passionate about your business. You love talking about it, explaining what makes you different. Heck, why shouldn’t you shout about your business?
Well, I’ll tell you.
Your customers don’t care.
Website readers are not interested in your business story or your passion. They don’t have time to admire your brilliance. They’re too busy searching for ways to make their lives better.
Me-centred copy fails to answer the central question in every visitor’s mind as they scan website content:
What’s in it for me?
Go to your website, pick a website page at random and count the me-centred words (I, we, us, our). Then count the number of you-centred words.
Does `we’ outnumber ‘you’? The next sections explain how to fix this.
Fail #2: Too many features
When your content focuses solely on features, it becomes all about you. Successful website content is all about the reader.
To persuade your customer to buy, and to answer that central question (`what’s in it for me?’), you must explain the benefits of those features.
By communicating the benefits, you’re writing about what your customer wants, and the content automatically becomes you-centred.
There’s a simple way to work out the difference between features and benefits. Just ask yourself `So what?’
|So what?||You’ll look better than Emma from accounts at the Christmas party|
|Product||Financial reporting software|
|So what?||All the information your accountant is chasing you for, at the click of a button|
|Feature||Deluxe leather rounded corners|
|So what?||With a binder that won’t wear out, you can protect your photos for years to come|
Don’t forget, the purpose of B2B website content is to get readers interested.
Clear benefits elicit an emotional response, a reason to care. You’ve made a casual visitor interested enough to hit the `get in touch’ button.
Then you can provide all the details.
Read through your website. Each time you spot a feature, ask yourself these 3 questions:
Fail #3: “Our clients”
Do you keep using the words `our clients’ or `our customers’?
This is guaranteed to lose visitors at a single stroke.
Think about it. The person reading your website is a potential customer. Why talk about them in the third person? At a subconscious level, it makes readers feel that your clients are someone else – nothing to do with them.
Effectively, you are holding a valuable client at arm’s length and saying `Go away. Our customers aren’t you’.
Avoid talking about readers as if they’re not there. Instead, talk directly to the reader.
Demonstrate an understanding of their pain points. Where are they now? Where will they be as a result of doing business with you?
Fail #4: Not enough transition words
You may have noticed the term `transition words’. When there are too few of them, it comes up as a red flag on Yoast’s SEO check.
Now, I know what you’re thinking:
What the heck are transition words? And why do they help SEO?
Transition words are words like `because’, `as a result’, `so’, `and’, `but’, `therefore’. They make content readable because you can see the relationship between one idea and the next.
(Did you see what I did there?)
Transition words like `as a result’ and `therefore’ prepare the reader for what’s coming next. They signal cause and effect.
|I didn’t use enough transition words. As a result, my SEO went down the pan.|
Without transition words, your content becomes a series of unconnected sentences which repeatedly stop readers in their tracks. They get confused, lose patience and click off elsewhere.
And when visitors keep leaving your website, Google notices.
| Top tip:
Don’t just write and hope. Establish the message you want to convey and the goal of each paragraph.
Make sure the ideas within that paragraph relate to each other. Use appropriate transition words to link your thoughts and ideas together.
Fail #5: Burying the main attraction
Online readers have the attention span of a gnat. This is why your core message must come first.
This is not the place for subtlety. Website content is not a novel. While it’s tempting to assume visitors read everything from start to finish, this is a mistake. Believe me, they don’t.
On any website page, readers hop around it like impatient 3-year-olds. They are trying to find out:
- Whether or not the page provides what they need
- How easy it is to read
- Whether it’s worth scrolling down to find out more
If you bury the main attraction, readers won’t bother looking for it. They need instant confirmation that the page is important to them.
Again, think about your target customer. For each service, which 3 things are most important to this person? Now put them in order of importance.
Lead with the main attraction. You have 3 seconds to get it across. The others should be flagged up with short, rapidly scannable subheadings.
Fail #6: Business bullshit
… or business jargon, to put it more politely.
Is your website full of it? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Most B2B websites contain so much random corporate bullshit you could grow mushrooms on them.
In case you’re wondering, I’ve made a short list:
I could go on… Endlessly, to be honest.
Business jargon is the enemy of clear communication. It isolates potential customers. Not only will they fail to understand what you’re saying, they will also judge you as pompous and unapproachable.
At worst, your business personality will come across as untrustworthy. You don’t want to sound as though you’re pulling the wool over the eyes of the reader.
| Top tip:
Use plain English. If in doubt, read your content aloud.
Does anything sound unnatural? If so, replace it with words you’d use during a conversation with a potential client.
Remember, your customers aren’t searching for technical language. They are searching for a business that feels familiar, human and friendly.
Fail #7: Walls of text
The way you format your website pages is crucial. In fact, formatting is more important than the words.
OK, that sounds weird coming from a content writer. I’d better explain.
When landing on a page, we don’t start by reading it. Before doing anything else, we scan the page.
Here, take a look at this website page (I apologise in advance, by the way):
OK, how far did you get? Some of you probably skipped the whole lot.
I don’t blame you. It’s a wall of text.
This is a disastrous mistake, because when you first saw that page, this is what your eyes will have done:
It’s the results of a eye-tracking study carried out by Jakob Nielsen. Interestingly, the study found that people tend to scan web pages in the shape of an F.
Going back to that impenetrable website page above, this is probably what you did:
- Scanned to the end of the first line
- Jumped straight to the second paragraph
- Noticed the words `initial embryo’… and felt a bit icky
When your pages follow an F-shape, visitors feel instantly comfortable. You have reassured impatient readers that it’s going to be easy.
Confronted by block paragraphs (and 54-word sentences), visitors will be off quicker than you can say “90% bounce rate”.
Limit paragraphs to 2 or 3 lines, with occasional 1-liners thrown in as breathing space.
Use bullet points, subheadings and images to break up the text.
Sentences should contain 20 words maximum. Your writing will sound more conversational if you vary sentence lengths and follow longer sentences with short ones. Like this, for instance.
Don’t forget the call to action (CTA).
Impressive website content is all very well. But if website visitors aren’t clear about what to do next, they won’t do anything. If you make the required action difficult, they’ll give up and leave.
Make sure there is at least one clear CTA per page and make it easy for them to complete the action.
Talking of which…
If you’d like me to re-write your website content, get in touch by clicking on this word here.